Thursday, October 29, 2009

Metallica, my sister, and privilege


The other night I got to go see Metallica. Twice, actually – they did a two-night stand here in Toronto. They have been one of my favourite bands for a very long time, ever since someone handed me a cassette of “Kill ‘em All” back in 85 and said “This band will change your life.” They are, for me, why people will beg, borrow or steal for the live concert experience, for the high and the exhilaration of being in a huge stadium with thousands of like-minded people getting off on the prowess and sheer performance of excellent musicians.

I love going to see a Metallica show. It’s always fun for me because a lot of onkwehonwe seem to adore Metallica as well. I always see people from my community, sometimes even my extended family. I took my sister to see a show in Pine Knob, Michigan when she was 16 (don’t tell her but it was so I could borrow my parent’s car – that was the condition) and got her hooked on them as bad as any drug. So whenever they come to Toronto we make it a point to try and go. Back in the day I actually used to travel around to see them, in the same vein as roadtripping to see the Grateful Dead, but I haven’t done that in years. I’ve always wondered why I love Metallica so much, but I think it’s the pounding, driving double bass drum -- it sounds like a water drum amplified by a million decibels and double-timed. They are a very Iroquoian band – concerned with democracy and personal power and righteous soul-searching, and also how to wade through this modern world that wants to crush the warrior spirit out of us. But I digress.

Anyway, the first night I took my daughter and turned her into a convert, and then second night I teamed up with my sister, because she has to go – no question. I got her addicted, I have to help feed the monkey. So of course the band is in top-form, thrashing through a beautiful performance that gave me goosebumps and I was headbanging so hard I still have whiplash. Our seats were right below the private boxes in the ACC, in section 118.

Now a word about those damn private boxes – I hate them. I hate that bullshit crap about “If I can afford it, I should lord it over the unwashed masses because I am great and powerful”. Every fiber of my Iroquoian being rebels at elitist shit like that. I don’t give a damn how much money you have – you are still a human being that breathes and farts and sleeps and how is it you get to think you are better than the rest of us? Where the hell do you think you are, ancient Rome in the Coliseum? Dining on canapés while the gladiators fight it out for your amusement?

Anyway, it was during a literally firebreathing version of “Blackened” that I started to notice that the knobs in the private box behind us were flinging beer around. They had first doused a bunch of guys to my left, about two rows down – how they hell they managed that I’ll never know. And then I got sprayed with warm beer. I turned around and yelled, “Hey, why not try being considerate, you fucking jerks??” which may not be the most polite opening salvo, but come on, they had been jerks for the last two songs.. I turned back to the show and it kept happening, upon which I turned around and glared at them for a whole two minutes, maintaining eye contact with the jerkoffs until they looked away. They were all white men (of course) between the ages of 28 to 35, with their prissily dressed girlfriends all looking as bored as shit and huddled off in a corner of the booth.

But by the time the band ripped into a full-throttle rendition of “Enter Sandman” they were back at it again, and this time doused my sister.

I should say a word about my sister. While younger, she has always been tougher, louder, more-opinionated, braver and bolder than I will ever be. I know that freaks out a lot of my non-native friends, who think I am the toughest, loudest, most opinionated, bravest and boldest badass Iroquoian girl out there – but they’ve not met my sister. Or a lot of the other women on the reserve. Iroquoian women are tough. They don’t take shit and woe betide you if you try and get between them and something they feel is right. Why do you think the whole Caledonia resistance thing happened? Or Oka? Or any of the other places where Iroquoian people feel wronged? It’s not the men, it’s the women. I was scared to death of most of them while I was growing up and I’m one of them!!! In full-on battle mode, Iroquoian women are terrifying.

So my sister tells them to quit fucking around and behave, and of course they don’t, and more beer flies around, this time getting the guys in the row in front of us, and my sister picked up a three-quarter full cup of whatever they had lying around on the ledge in front of their private box and heaved it at them, catching three of them full on in the face!!! She soaked them! It was totally awesome. You should have seen their faces – it was like never in a million years did they ever expect to get their shit thrown back at them, much less by a woman. They got all huffy and my sister is like, “You wanna go? Let’s go, you fucking assholes!!!” and then the dudes in the row in front of us, two of whom looked like bikers, got behind her and they completely backed down. It was totally cool. They were completely deflated. By the time the song ended, they were gone. Talk about getting the eff out of Dodge – the damn Indians are coming!!

At the end of the show my sister looked around and said, “Hey, where did they go?” I told her they probably had to leave to get the last GO train to whatever suburban shithole they had climbed out of and we started to laugh, and one of the biker-like dudes tapped my sister on the shoulder and told her that she was awesome, that he was glad she had stood up to those assholes and that he had her back anytime, and we left the show laughing hysterically, and couldn’t stop, being all exhilarated from the show and the adrenalin rush of battle.

But of course the whole thing made me think about privilege, and the sense of entitlement that comes with it. Why do people behave like assholes? Because they think they have the right. They don’t see that living among other people, living in a city or in a community means you have to live WITH them, not against them, and that it doesn’t do anybody any good to behave like an asshole, to put yourself at the head of the line and constantly take without giving. But they keep trying to do it, and because there’s no one to shut them down, they are successful. It’s like there’s this whole myth in this culture that rugged individualism will see you through, and to hell with everyone else. This is why I despise the political process that I see at play in this country – it’s just the elites battling it out. My pork barrel party is better than your pork barrel party, and meanwhile everyone else is going hungry and looking elsewhere for sustenance. And the other thing that drives me crazy is that these overprivileged and overbored people believe inherently that they have the right to tell you how you should live.

Coming from an onkwehonwe background means you never think you are better than anyone else. In fact, most of our cultural myths and stories make sure you don’t get a big head and think of yourself as better. But hey -- we know that all Haudenosaunee are the toughest, loudest, most-opinionated, bravest and boldest people out there, and together we will collectively kick your ass.